Associates, In-House Counsels & Advocates

Ashok GV, Managing Partner, CorLit Legal, on pro-bono work and striving for success

ashok-gv-1Ashok G.V., a graduate from Bangalore Institute of Legal Studies in 2011. He is currently a Managing Partner at Corlit Legal. He is involved in a lot of social work being the Co-Founder at Crisis Prevention and Survivor Support Centre. He has coordinated cross border trade mark litigation in the United State of America. He has also dedicated himself as a Member of the Ethics Committee, Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore.

In this interview we speak to him about:

  • His time as an undergraduate
  • His pro-bono and humanitarian work
  • His diverse experience

 

How did you gravitate towards law?

I always held a keen interest in writing and debating. During my high school days, I spent a large amount of time debating on the UNICEF Voices of Youth Forum on the internet. All that time spent debating issues of socio-economic interest, made me realise that I enjoyed making an argument. Plus, my father, Mr. G.K.V. Murthy, is a very accomplished Advocate practising in the High Court of Karnataka for more than two decades. I had some confusion as to whether I should pursue journalism or law, but seeing the kind of impact my father had in the lives of his clients convinced me that law is where I wanted to be.

 

Being from BILS, do you think that a non-NLU made any difference to your career?

I was always particular about my subject, never about the university. Be it BILS or National Law Universities, they all come with their own strengths and opportunities and one has to try and make the best of what one has.

At BILS, my faculty members were always very encouraging and supportive of all my initiatives. I found a fantastic business partner with whom I could start CorLit Legal in BILS. Plus, it was only because of BILS that I was able to find the latitude to garner practical work experience of close to five years.  If I had to instead spend five years in a NLU, I would have been confined for the most part to campus life, leading to loss of exposure to the real world of law. That five years of work experience, gave me the skills, experience, platform and network necessary to start CorLit Legal along with my partner Sourabh.

Of course, some of my friends from various National Law Schools managed to go abroad for prestigious moot court competitions and international internships. I might have lost out on those opportunities. So it does not matter. BILS or NLU, you can still do just fine as long as you are willing to define your priorities properly and make decisions you can live with.

 

How important is mooting and what effect does it have on one’s CV?

(Ashok has participated in various moot court competitions like the Raj Anand Intellectual Property Moot and the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court.)

I have always loved litigation. Moot Courts were the only respite in a course that largely emphasises on theory. Participating in Raj Anand Intellectual Property Moot and the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court gave me exposure to IPR and International Law and helped me understand what problems in these fields look like. I learnt how to research well from these competitions, a skill that comes in handy for my career now. However, litigation in real life is far more challenging and stimulating than moot court competitions. I would urge law students to look at moot court competitions as purely a learning exercise.

 

Tell us about your earlier association with Global Law Inc. and Meta Yage IP Strategy Consulting.

I have found virtually every field of law interesting. Intellectual Property Rights holds a special place, because my first internship was with an IP Consulting Firm, Meta Yage IP Strategy Consulting. One of my assignments there involved drafting portions of a Patent Application and my work received very encouraging feedback. It was the first time I felt confident that I could make a career for myself in the field of law. I continue to remain very good friends with the folks from Meta Yage.

After I completed my internship at Meta Yage, I went on to work as a Junior Associate at Global Law Inc. My senior there, Mr. M.S. Srinivasa, is arguably one of the sharpest Indirect Tax Attorneys in the country today. I spent a good eighteen months working under him in the field of Indirect Tax Litigation where I picked up critical skills such as drafting and goal oriented research. But the most prized skill from that experience was learning the extent of clerical work that goes into each case and the amount of diligence required to execute it.

The diploma course was very insightful as it gave us considerable insights into the practice of Intellectual Property Law. The course was designed beautifully and did not waste any time dwelling into irrelevant things. The legal fraternity would be wise to learn from such courses, to make their own syllabus more useful and relevant to a Law Student’s career.

 

Tell us about the kind of work you do as the Consulting Partner at Startup Amigo.

Startup Amigo is a platform designed to advise and assist businesses, from the stage of ideation to the launch of the product or service portfolio. It is the brain child of my good friend, Abhishek Raju who has been one of my biggest sources of support and encouragement since the time I entered law school. In the short span of time since its inception, it has forged impressive partnerships with some of Asia and Europe’s leading management institutions and trade bodies. Its sector specialisation includes Space Technology, Water Resource Management, Health care and Defence Consulting, just to name a few.

My role as a consulting partner, is to help Startup Amigo’s clients understand the sociological context and regulatory framework which exists in India and to help them evolve customised business strategies for the Indian Market. My engagement includes one on one consulting assignments and delivering lectures on relevant areas of law, during seminars and workshops organised by Startup Amigo and its partner organisations.

 

What does your role as Managing Partner of Corlit Legal entail?

CorLit Legal is a full practice law firm with practice areas encompassing Intellectual Property Rights, Taxation, Company Law and Food and Beverage Legislations. Besides Sourabh and I, who are its Founding and Managing Partners, we have six other Advocates with over twenty years of experience who came on board as Domain Partners. Clients are usually referred to us by someone we know. There is no secret to be honest. We have tried to get to know people, for the sake of knowing them and we never spoke to anyone with the intention of seeking any business. If the relationship translates into an Attorney-Client relationship, great! If not, we have managed to make new friends who can teach us something about their field of experience. CorLit Legal was never about the money. It has always been a personal journey to become more relevant and useful to the world we are part of.

 

You are a part of the Ethics Committee, Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore. What are your primary responsibilities as such?

The Ethics Committee is a body which reviews proposals for clinical research involving new medicines and therapeutic processes. Its primary duty is to ensure that the subjects who have volunteered for clinical research are adequately protected and ethical considerations surrounding the same are fully addressed. I was appointed primarily on account of my experience in the field of human rights and my responsibility is to inject that perspective into the deliberations of the Committee.

 

Our readers will also be curious to know about your publications and your love for writing.

(Ashok is the author of Harmonizing Internal Policy and Trade Mark Law and Losing Focus-An analysis of the Justice Verma Committee Report. You also have your own blog.

Writing has been a very helpful companion. I don’t even consider it a hobby, because like how I need to breathe, I feel compelled to write. As an amateur writer, I published mainly in a women’s magazine called Eve’s Times, which provided a platform to unknown writers like myself. Writing has been an introspective process for me and largely responsible for all the progress I have made as an individual. No matter how tiring the profession gets or how demanding of my time it is, I will perhaps never give up writing.

 

How does it feel to be recognized for the social initiatives taken by you?

First of all, the ethical obligations for a lawyer make it incumbent upon us to devote some time to pro bono activities. Therefore, I wish to clarify that we are doing what we are duty bound to do as Advocates. Sourabh and I always knew that CorLit Legal was going to be a body that would leverage its business law practice, for the purpose of creating a sustainable pro bono program. We were lucky to find Enfold Proactive Health Trust, with whom we have collaborated to work in the field of helping survivors of sexual violence.

Having said that, the activists that we have worked with, be it at Enfold or Dr. Ravindranath Shanbhag or Sinu Joseph or Ramesh at the Forward Foundation, they are the heroes who deserve recognition because they have gone above and beyond their professions and duties. Many of them in fact are well known and Sinu was even featured on “Chai with Lakshmi” and Ted for her work in the field of Menstrual Hygiene. Our associations with our clients and these activists are the highlight of our work at CorLit Legal. We are happy to support them however we can, although our contribution, when compared to theirs, fares poorly in comparison. As regards the recognition, Sourabh and I could care less whether CorLit is recognised or not. It’s always about the client and the work, and never about us.

 

How did you get the thought of forming Crisis Prevention and Survivor Support Centre?

Sexual violence is violence with a lot of power and control dynamics associated with it. After reading the works of John Douglas and Roy Hazelwood, I knew I wanted to do some work in that field and wrote extensively for internet based publications on the same subject. In 2011, we were approached by someone I knew, stating that she was assaulted and being stalked. By that time, I had a friend, Sahu who is a fantastic counsellor. We both worked together in helping the client and she eventually managed to stand up to her perpetrator and successfully warned him off. We later got in touch with Dr. Shaibya Saldanha at Enfold with the idea of creating a platform where survivors of sexual violence can find legal, counselling and medical intervention in one place free of cost. We have been working together since then.

It is important to temper down our idealism though. India has a fantastic legislative framework, but lacks the infrastructure, manpower and attitude to implement it. The law can always become better; no doubt, but it’s also quite up to the job even now. On the other hand, the attitudes of the people on the ground are more difficult to deal with.  I don’t have any dreams or illusions about being a change maker. For us, it’s just about doing what we can do to make the life of that one survivor a little less anxious and difficult.

 

Do you take interns for your firm?

Well given I myself come from a humble academic background, I would go less by a person’s resume and more by the person. I usually have a chat with students who wish to intern and if I think they will be a good fit at CorLit Legal, I would be more than happy to provide a “call back”. The difficulty for us is how we make the intern’s time worthwhile for him or her. When we are dealing with an intern, we are very conscious of our responsibility to ensure they go back feeling less ignorant and more enlightened about the profession. But with so much of time spent at Court, it becomes a difficult process. So if a candidate shows initiative and respect for his or her own time, it would earn him or her, a brownie point for sure.

 

Where do you see yourself in the long-run?

I want to teach. Not just law, but perhaps even the humanities. Therefore, higher studies are definitely part of my plan. I joined the profession, only because I felt this experience would make me a better faculty for my students. 10 years from now, I hope to spend more time on research, writing and teaching.

 

What all do you consider in making strategic career moves?

I never planned any of my moves nor did I ever strategise. I have a supportive family and I managed to find the right people at the right time by sheer luck, thanks mostly to being at BILS where I found my collaborators at both CorLit Legal and Startup Amigo. Building relationships based on sincerity and mutual respect is the most important goal for any professional, including a lawyer.

 

What would be your message to our readers who are faced with decisive choices?

If I have to dish out advice, then do not follow the herd. Make decisions based on your own introspection and not because of someone else’s advice. Have an open mind. Most importantly, don’t succumb to the fear psychosis that tells you to freak out or get left behind the competition. As my good friend Abhishek at Startup Amigo told me, “Collaborate and don’t compete”. Be nice to everyone, for the sake of civility and you will be just fine. Lastly, remember that Law Practice is a humbling experience. It requires endurance and demands resilience. It’s a 24/7 engagement and the situations you encounter can make you feel profoundly ignorant all the time. Therefore, it’s always important to be open to learning and never assume that one is the best at what he or she does.

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